When the Toronto Blue Jays traded Jose Reyes to Colorado for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins, they were an underwhelming 50-49. Despite a high-powered offence that had the best run differential in baseball, the Jays were 7.0 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East and two games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot. Their starting pitching was suspect, ranking 23rd in the MLB in ERA, and they were horrible in one-run games.
Now, following a three-game sweep of the Yankees this weekend in which Toronto allowed just one total run, the Jays have jumped into the top Wild Card spot and sit only 1.5 games behind the Yankees for first place in the division. Their momentum is palpable: since July 28, the day they landed Tulo, the Jays are 11-1 and currently riding an eight-game win streak. Toronto fans haven’t seen the Jays in the playoffs since 1993 and are going nuts: David Price said after his first start that the atmosphere in Toronto was the best he’d experienced anywhere in his career.
It’s easy to look at the team’s offence and explain their surge, and this is partially true. A lineup that includes Tulowizki, MVP-candidate Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista is downright terrifying. Those three alone have a combined 72 home runs this season, though Tulo has only batted .244 since moving to Toronto. Overall, the Jays lead the majors in homeruns with 153.
But hitting is only part of the equation, and it’s been the pitching that has really turned the Blue Jays into legitimate World Series contenders since the trade deadline. In his two starts in a Blue Jays uniform, Price has logged a 0.60 ERA — surrendering just one earned run (a solo HR) in 16 innings. During those two starts, Price has struck out 18 batters. Forty-two-year-old Hawkins has come out of the bullpen in six games and hasn’t yet given up a run. Twenty-year-old Roberto Osuna has been lights out as the team’s closer during this run, giving up just one run and logging five saves in relief. As a team, Toronto’s pitchers have an ERA of 1.87 during the month of August.
Between now and the start of the playoffs Toronto will play the Yankees 10 more times. The result of these games will inevitably determine who wins the division, and although the teams are trending in opposite directions at the moment (the Yankees are 4-6 in their last 10 games), there is still plenty of season left. One other major difference between the Jays and Yankees is that the Yankees did next to nothing at the trade deadline. At the moment, Toronto’s aggressive approach seems clearly to have been worth it.
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